Treyarch, a company known for developing a number of titles for publisher Activision will now be developing only Call of Duty titles into the foreseeable future. And by foreseeable future, I mean forever.
During an interview with CVG, Treyarch head Mark Lamia dropped the news about Treyarch being a Call of Duty centric studio. “Treyarch is a 100 percent Call of Duty studio—and it has been for a long time now, long before any of the [the Infinity Ward] events occurred,” said Lamia. “We focused all of our efforts on creating the best Call of Duty game we possibly can and what that meant is not working on anything else. We are a multiple team studio and focusing on Call of Duty and Call of Duty gameplay meant focusing all of our teams on that”
For the last five years Treyarch has followed behind Infinity Ward developing Call of Duty titles. Once Infinity Ward took the franchise out of the WWII setting and into present day, it was Treyarch that filled the World War II void left by Infinity Ward’s departure, developing Call of Duty 2: The Big Red One, Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: World at War to keep a constant stream of Call of Duty titles releasing for publisher Activision.
Call of Duty: Black Ops, Treyarch’s next Call of Duty installment, will be the developer’s first venture outside the WWII theatre of war. Black Ops also marks the first time the entire Treyarch development studio is pooling resources to collectively work on a single title. Every egg is going into this single basket.
But what’s worth touching on is whether or not becoming a Call of Duty centric studio is the right move for Treyarch. From a business standpoint it makes sense. It’s job security 101. If Treyarch can undoubtedly tell Activision they will develop an infinite number of Call of Duty titles for the publisher—pushing everything else out the window–then that means Treyarch will forever have a constant stream of funding to develop their games. Activision knows the Call of Duty name makes them money. Therefore, it’s smart on Activision’s part to give funding to the guys willing to make more Call of Duty titles. Meaning, Treyarch stays in business.
However, working on a single intellectual property for an extended period of time seems to be the best way to go about killing creativity. I’m sure Treyarch’s staff is made up of some of the best and brightest developers in the world, but ever since they started making Call of Duty titles they haven’t had the opportunity to really show everyone how talented they are. They’ve always come second fiddle to Infinity Ward, always a step behind.
Now this move to be a Call of Duty centric development house could be Treyarch’s way of pushing Infinity Ward aside, showing Activision they are the premiere Call of Duty developer. With Infinity Ward tearing at the seams, Black Ops seems to be Treyarch’s best chance to prove themselves as more than just relief pitchers when called upon.
So let’s throw out a hypothetical. What if Call of Duty: Black Ops is a hit, what if it’s even more successful than Modern Warfare 2? Does that mean the only chance Treyarch has of one-upping themselves is with future Call of Duty titles? To me, that seems so incredibly depressing. I can’t even imagine what that must feel like for the people of Treyarch, where looking out on the horizon reveals nothing but Call of Duty titles until the day they die.
This whole move by Treyarch seems very short sighted to me. Treyarch wants the chance to prove themselves so badly that they’re willing to make a deal with the devil in order to do it. But if Treyarch reaches superstar status with Call of Duty: Black Ops I can see a similar power struggle situation cropping up between Treyarch and Activision later down the line. The same kind of scenario we saw between Infinity Ward and Activision for the fate of the Call of Duty franchise. A struggle, mind you, that ended in one of the most successful and powerful development houses in video gaming torn apart.